The waterways which connect Kottayam and Alappuzha through the serene backwaters conceal a rich and varied history of the unique geographical features. Decades ago, even before the AC and the MC roads were constructed, the lighthouse at Malarickal showed the way to Kottayam for the people who came rowing the small boats. Though a lot of changes happened here, the impeccable charm of the hamlets of Kuttandu never seems to cease. The stunning beauty of the lush green paddy fields, the vistas of coconut palms and the serene lakes continue to attract tourists from all over the world to enjoy it by taking a boat ride through the famed waterways of the Vembanadu Lake.
The jetty at Kodimatha was once a major hub thronged by commuters who travelled between Kottayam and Alappuzha. “It was Diwan T Rama Rao who built a rivulet called the Puthen Thodu connecting Kottayam and Alappuzha. It was from a paddy field on the southern part of the Puthen Thodu that rice was sourced for the royal kitchen of the Poonjar dynasty,” says Rajeev Pallikonam, a local historian and an environmental activist who strive for the revival of the rivers.
Even before the famed Nehru Trophy boat race was instituted in honour of the former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the ‘Vembanadu boat race’ was conducted at the Kodurar, a river. But the Vembanadu boat race, which once attracted racing enthusiasts from all over Kerala, lost its prominence once Alappuzha became the major centre of trade and commerce. The Gramin Bridge built across the Kodurar, with paddy fields on both sides, later became the bypass to Kottayam. The huge barge stationed on the canal in front of the Travancore Cement Factory is proof that waterways are still used to carry freight to the neighboring districts. Goods can be transported from Kollam, Alappuzha and Kochi harbours to Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Idukki, via the Kottayam port. This waterway in fact lies exactly parallel to the roads which connect the districts. Major businessmen and merchants have not yet given importance to the newly revived Kottayam port as the transportation of goods through boats may take more time than when it is transported through the roadways.
Water weed has taken over the pristine waters of the Kodurar beyond the Kottayam port. Waterfowls like neela kozhi (purple moorhen), thamara kozhi (bronze winged jacana), chera kozhi (darter bird) and neerkakka (black cormorant) make these vast swathes of water weed their refuge. Kodurar is a tributary of the Meenachil River which originates in the Kodamurutty ranges. The Meenachil River which proceeds from Pala, circulates the Kottayam town, flows past Chungam and ends at the Kodurar Lake itself.
The sunset at Malarickal
At Malarickal in Thiruvarpu grama panchayat, near Vembanad Lake, the sunset is visible in the far horizon beyond the green fields. This is truly a scintillating sight.
The setting sun paints a golden hue to the paddy fields and gives a rustic charm to the entire area. There are two huge rocks in the river beyond the Kodurar which is formed by the sediments. The people of the locality say that these rocks keep growing. The nearby temple is visited by hundreds of devotees every year to attend the annual festival.
The Pazhukkanilam Lake is the entrance to Kottayam through the waterway. The lighthouse tower which was built in 1815 still stands tall at Pazhukkanilam. It was Colonel Monroe who built this lighthouse to lead the boats which came from the neighboring districts like Alappuzha and Ernakulam to Kottayam. The serene lake and the vast acres of paddy fields add to mesmerising charm of the lighthouse. Swarms of migratory birds rest on the little paths between the fields. Rows of coconut trees adorn the banks of the river and tiny mud pots could be seen on each tree to collect the toddy which is tapped. The Valiaveetil temple in the middle of the fields makes a perfect addition to the bucolic setting. Special prayers are offered at this temple where Bhadrakali is the main deity for a good harvest.
Krishnankutty Moola is the junction in the middle of the Vembanad Lake from where waterways diverge to Kavalam, Kottayam and Alappuzha. The restaurant here is the main hub of the food lovers who takes a boat trip through the Vembanad Lake. One can feast on an elaborate lunch accompanied with various fish delicacies like pearl spot, lobster, clam meat, anchovies and squid. Tapioca and fish curry is another super hit combination served at the restaurant here.
Krishnankutty Moola is also a bird watcher’s paradise as exotic varieties of avian species can be spotted here. Swarms of brahminy kites, cranes, cormorants, pheasants and other types of birds and waterfowls are common sights.
Small houses line both the banks of this stream and every house has separate ghats too. There are five bridges on this stream up to Kottayam which can be raised whenever a boat passes. Employees would raise the bridges by pulling a rope, and this primitive technology is the reason why boat services are not allowed in this route at night.
Watching the sun set from the paddy fields near the Kaniram Jetty would be the perfect way to end the boat cruise exploring the beautiful and historically significant waterways between Kottayam and Alappuzha.
Kottayam Boat Cruise
Private boats run the services presently. At many places, lack of facilities to dock or moor the boats prevents the tourists from visiting historically significant places like Munroe lighthouse. Visitors should carry their own food and drinking water.
It would cost Rs 2500 for hiring the boat for 4 hours. Pls contact: Ashokan – 9747025153, Shajimon – 9447366841, Rasheed – 9446863469.